Saturday, March 17, 2007

A day in Hollywood South

I never thought I’d hear the day when names like Samuel Jackson, Meg Ryan and Martin Lawrence would be mentioned in the same sentence as Shreveport.
Would’ve called you a bold-face liar even five years ago if you'd told me Shreveport would be recognized on the NBC Nightly News as “Hollywood South.”
I would’ve laughed in your face if you told me Shreveport would be mentioned in the "New York Post" or on a nationally syndicated gossip radio show like “The Wendy Williams Experience” in New York City for its celebrity sightings.
New Orleans, yeah. Maybe even Baton Rouge … But NOT Shreveport.
And yet that time is now and it wasn’t more clear to me than when I covered Southern University at Shreveport’s 3rd Annual Economic Forum on Friday which focused on the film industry.

As usual, I found myself hustling through traffic to get to the Clarion Hotel in time to cover the afternoon portion of the forum. After spending forever trying to find a park, I’d finally made my way inside.
That’s when I saw a friend of mine, who was familiar with the SUSLA event. After we hugged, I told her I was looking for the event chairwoman Arcenia Anthony, who I’d communicated with the day before.

“Oh she’s in the hospitality room with all the celebrities. Do you wanna go up there?”
And before I could answer yes, she’d grabbed my hand placed me on an elevator and the next thing I knew I was in the hospitality room standing less than a foot away from THE Lynn Whitfield!

(OK, quick review for those who may be in the stone ages and don’t know who the award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield is. Think: “The Josephine Baker Story,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “A Thin Line…” “The Women of Brewster Place,” the ABC miniseries “The Wedding,” CBS’s “Without a Trace.” Ringing any bells yet? Well, Lynn Whitfield starred in all of them. And she's straight from the boot. That's, she's a Louisiana native, born and raised in an aristocratic family from Baton Rouge.)

Y’all she looks even MORE fabulous in person than she does on TV and in pics like that one. But it would be awhile before I could actually meet with her since everyone was clamoring to talk to her, and understandably so.

So I got a chance to chat it up with actors Sean LeSure and Algiers native Clyde R. Jones. OK, their names may not ring a bell, but you may have seen their faces. Sean has appeared in “ER” and “Family Matters” just to name a few. Jones is a Broadway actor who’s also appeared in “Moesha,” “The Fantasia Barrino Story” and more.

Both were cool, down-to-earth, fun guys who immediately set me at ease. And they were both passionate about helping local residents to take advantage of the booming movie business in the area.

Then, I spotted another familiar face kind of standing away from the crowd: It was Carl Winslow! OK, really he’s Reginald VelJohnson, but if you’re like me, you recognize him better as “Mr. Winslow” from the now defunct sitcom “Family Matters.”

One of the things that immediately struck me about him was how different he looked in person. I mean, we all age, so the hints of gray in his mustache and hair weren’t a big deal to me. But I think maybe it was his demeanor that stood out the most.
It was cool, seasoned, laid-back, relaxed. A far cry from the easily-flustered, hot-tempered Carl Winslow that was always screaming for Steve Urkel to “Go HOME!”

Mr. VelJohnson was serious and kind. I even took a pic with him on my cell phone. (Hey, I had to cease the moment and didn't have my digital camera, of course.) He told me how he was there as a favor to his friend Rod Phillips, a Shreveport native, who runs a film production company in L.A. and North Carolina and is looking to bring production opportunities back home.

VelJohnson told me how he’s seen Shreveport become the hot spot for many actors.
“I ran into James Earl Jones, Cedric the Entertainer and Mo’Nique at the casino last night,” he said.
He said he hopes that the city, especially the young people will get in on the buzz and take advantage of it.
When I asked him if he thought Shreveport could sustain the momentum, he said “I hope so. I don’t see why it wouldn’t. I visited Booker T. Washington High School yesterday and I saw so many young people that are ready for something like this.”

And for those wondering, yes he’s still got his foot in Hollywood. He said he just wrapped up three films and just started taping for a TV program. “I’m still out there,” he said.

Oh well, I have plenty more to dish about my visit with Lynn Whitfield, but I’ll save that for another post. So, stay tuned …


Adam Kealoha Causey said...

I didn't know Lynn Whitfield is from BR. Are you sure she's more beautiful than the pic there? Because that's pretty hot.

Donecia Pea said...

Lol, if you thought she was hot in that pic, then you prolly woulda be drooling in person. I can only hope I'm half as fabulous looking by the time I'm that age!

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